Westfield Group FY profit slips

Shopping centre operator sees lift in revenue, says Aust business 'highly resilient'.

Westfield Group (WDC) said its Australian business remains highly resilient, after posting a fall in profit for fiscal 2013.

The shopping centre operator saw a $1.6 billion net profit after tax for 2013, representing a 6.7% fall from the previous year.

But revenue lifted by 7.4% in the year, to $2.39 billion, beating analyst expectations.

A survey of six analysts estimated revenue would be $2.25 billion, Bloomberg said.

Meanwhile, assets under management grew to $70 billion at December 31, up $5.6 billion on the previous year.

The group will pay final distributions totalling 25.5 cents per share, bringing total distributions for the year to 51 cents per share for the year, up 3% from 2013 and in line with the group’s forecasts.

Westfield's funds from operations lifted by 2.3% to 66.51 cents per stapled security, lower than Bloomberg's estimate of 67.1 cents per security, based on a survey of six analysts.

Westfield confirmed its 2014 forecast for a 3.2% increase in funds from operations of 68.6 cents per security prior to the restructure proposal.

The group last year announced plans to split its Australian and New Zealand business from its international business.

Its distribution forecast for 2014 is 52.5 cents per security prior to the restructure proposal, up 3% from 2013.

Westfield Group co-chief executive officers Peter Lowy and Steven Lowy said each market showed high productivity, with growth in specialty sales and comparable net operating income.

"During the year we successfully continued the strategic repositioning of the group by divesting non-core assets, introducing further joint ventures, investing in our development activity and announcing the acquisition of the remaining 50% interest in the Westfield World Trade Center in New York," they said.

"Our business is in a strong position in each of the markets we operate."

Comparable specialty retail sales for the year lifted by 1.4% in Australia.

"Our Australian business and platform has proved highly resilient, due to the high quality of the portfolio with excellent sales productivity, almost full occupancy and continued growth in average rents and net property income," Steven Lowy said.

"It is pleasing to note the improvement in retail sales growth with comparable specialty sales up 3% in the December quarter and up 4 per cent in January 2014."

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